NEW YORK, New York, October 6, 2008 (ENS) – By the end of this year, more than half of the world’s population will live in urban areas for the first time in human history, and it is no coincidence that climate change is now at the forefront of international debate, the top United Nations habitat official said to mark World Habitat Day.
Anna Tibaijuka serves as executive director of UN-HABITAT, the agency which promotes socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities and adequate shelter for all. "Cities consume upwards of 75 percent of all energy and contribute to an equally substantial amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Cities must therefore be an integral part of any mitigation efforts," she said on World Habitat Day, which is observed on the first Monday in October each year.
In his speech on world habitat day, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon said that The theme of this year’s World Habitat Day is “harmonious cities”. Our rapidly urbanizing world cannot claim to be harmonious if slum-dwellers do not enjoy opportunities to find jobs and improve their living conditions. Nor will it be harmonious if the growth and expansion of urban areas comes at the expense of the natural environment.
Of the world’s 6.7 billion people, there are now more than one billion urban slum dwellers Tibaijuka said.
Raquel Rolnik, the UN special Rapporteur on adequate housing, says that the growth of slums in the last 15 years has been "unprecedented" with one out of every three city dwellers today living in a slum.
"Living in slums means being deprived of access to adequate sanitation, education and health care or to other services and opportunities. It also means being excluded from full participation in civic life and the exercise of citizen’s rights, as slums are considered illegal, informal or transitory and in any case a non-permanent part of a city’s political and economic fabric," Rolnik said in a statement
This year’s World Habitat Day comes ahead of the fourth session of the World Urban Forum, set to take place in Nanjing, China, from November 3 to 6. There, UN-HABITAT will release its latest biennial publication "State of the World’s Cities."
Nanjing is the recipient of this year’s Habitat Scroll of Honour Special Citation, recognizing outstanding achievements in the cause of sustainable human settlements.
In addition, the Chinese cities of Shaoxing and Zhangjiagang were given the Habitat Scroll of Honour Award, along with the Rwandan capital, Kigali, the Russian city of Bugulma, and Juarez, a Mexican city on the Mexico-U.S. border.
In Bangkok, Thailand, seven free online Quick Guides were launched today for World Habitat Day. They are intended to help policymakers deal with the key issues of housing urban poor in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Quick Guides, developed jointly by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and UN-HABITAT, are in response to the unprecedented growth of slums and squatter settlements in the region that now house over 500 million people